Journey through time…

Time is a funny thing. Some days it seems to creep along, and other times you wake up and realized years have passed by. That’s where I’m at this week. Eleven years ago, I ran my first half marathon in Las Vegas. After watching Cameron run a bunch of full marathons (26.2 miles), I thought I’d try the half marathon (13.1 miles). It was a “Rock & Roll” marathon at night on the Vegas strip. It was around the same time as the National Finals Rodeo, so we did a multipurpose trip. It was a memorable experience for sure. I finished the race, with Cameron pacing me and keeping my spirits up. Navigating the stairs of the rodeo arena the next day was a bit of a challenge. We had a fun time.

8 years ago this week, I heard the diagnosis of breast cancer. I’m sure there are some people that get annoyed when I bring it up. But, I was 41 and I want people to be aware that it can happen at younger ages, and to be advocates for their own health. 8 years ago I didn’t know where I would be. I hoped I’d be cured and healthy. I didn’t think I’d be in Minnesota. I am healthy and doing well. The diabetes diagnosis isn’t related to cancer (more related to gestational diabetes & genetics).

7 years ago, we went back to Vegas and we were able to go to the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night at the rodeo. It was an emotional experience to be there as a survivor. I felt guilt for taking a trip, but I was an important part of the healing journey. The guilt is something I’ve wrestled with for 7 years. It’s time to let that go. Because my cancer came in December, and I was healthy before that, we had to pay out of pocket for November & December appointments/procedures to meet our deductible, and then start all over again in January. It was more than we could handle financially, and we needed some help. The school put on a fundraiser for us to help with medical bills. I knew there would be people who judged us for taking a trip the same year we needed financial help. I need to let go of that guilt. They don’t know the full story. Have you heard the saying, “what people think of you is not your concern?” This applies here.

So, this week especially, I’m setting down that guilt. I’m blessing and releasing the fear, shame and anxiety that filled me up for so long. I am putting it down and walking the other way. I’m moving forward in good health and in joy, knowing I am enough. You are too. You don’t need to explain your life or your choices. You need to be happy. I honestly hope you are.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. This time of year we see many signs about peace. I hope you find it. Don’t let the outside expectations steal your joy. You deserve joy, not because of what you do, but because you are here to experience love.

Katie & I …

It’s officially October, and the fall leaves are in full display in central MN. October is also breast cancer awareness month. This became extra meaningful for me after my cancer diagnosis & treatment. I recently got this mug as a gift from an aunt of mine. I chose to have pink sparkle nails this month too! I probably won’t wear pink every day since I work from home.

Last week I wrote about connections. I also learned that I have a connection with Katie Couric. Although she is 65 (I was 41), she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. From the Today Show web site, I learned she also had a lumpectomy (left side) and radiation. They interviewed her on the Today Show on Monday and we had a remarkably high number of similarities. Stage 1, Her2 Negative, HR positive, left side lumpectomy & radiation, followed by aromatase inhibitors, no chemo. So I guess we are “besties” now. I do have a mass communication degree, and I did do a TV internship, so yeah, we’re pretty similar. (Ha ha)

Some of her main goals are to increase awareness, get legislation passed to improve health care and insurance coverage for women with dense breast tissue, and remind women to get their mammogram. When you have a mammogram, they should be able to tell you if you have dense tissue. If you do, a 3D mammogram is recommended because they can see through the dense tissue more effectively. If they notice a spot of concern, they may do an ultrasound of the area. Depending on what that says, they may biopsy it and test the tissue to confirm if it’s cancerous or not. (PS – if you do have a biopsy, do not go back to work the rest of the day. Get some ice packs, take some ibuprofen and take a nap!)

The month of October is a trigger for me. There are a few “anniversaries” coming up and this is just before the big one. Mine was caught early. I took the recommended steps but I also incorporated some things on my own. I believe I am supposed to be an example of early detection and surviving/thriving. I slipped a little on my journey, but I’m on track again. I’m starting to feel better as I shed some pounds, and my A1C has gone from 6.9 in April to 5.8 now (goal is under 5.7)

I wish your peace on your journey of enough & grace through the seasons of change. Take time to care for yourself while you’re busy caring for others. And… get your mammogram!

Stop it…

I’d like to send a message to doctors & to ladies. Doctors: Stop telling women they don’t need a mammogram. Just stop. Stop saying it’s not needed until 40 or 50 years old. Just stop. I was 41. Two of my friends were also 41. If I hadn’t had a baseline done years prior, they might have dismissed the findings. They might have told me to wait and see if it changed. I heard someone tell the story about their doctor who told them they should just “wait and see” if things changed in 6 months. My cancer grew from nothing to stage 1 in 12 months. I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait until it progressed to stage 2 or 3 or 4.

My friend told me her Doctor said she didn’t need a mammogram even though it was covered by insurance. Thankfully, she didn’t take “no” for an answer. She at least has a baseline to compare others to. Hopefully she never needs it, but it’s there and could possibly save her life.

Ladies, stop. Stop making excuses.

  1. You’re busy. I get it. We are all busy.
  2. You’re scared of having a mammogram. Being told you have cancer is scary. Telling your kids that their mom has cancer is scary.
  3. It hurts. Guess what? Having surgery hurts. It hurts longer than the 45 seconds of having your boob squished for a mammogram. Catching it early makes the treatment less invasive.

My mother-in-law had breast cancer shortly after we were married (more than 20 years ago.) A few years ago, she stopped going in for regular check ups. She stopped putting herself first. We aren’t sure why, and now we won’t get the chance to ask her. She was 70. She didn’t make it to her 71st birthday. She won’t see her grandkids graduate high school or get married. Last Friday we lit a luminaria bag in her memory at our Relay for Life event.

Our Relay for Life is one of the largest in MN. I was co-captain last year and team captain this year. We raise funds all year and our Relay night is 8 hrs long. We don’t go through the night anymore… not enough people stayed that long. I think that’s common for several Relay events. People have other commitments during their short summer. It is a powerful, emotional night. People of all ages wearing purple “survivor” t-shirts walk the survivor lap. I thought for a moment “maybe I shouldn’t go or be involved…. maybe it’s not a big deal.” And then I thought of my mother-in-law, my aunt, my friend’s wife… and I realized it’s a big deal.

My husband took a picture of the survivor on the back of my shirt. At first I thought it was silly, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of the night. My good friend decorated a bag for me with a cat that looks like ours and some chickens in clothes… perfect. It gets to be in honor of me and not in memory.

In general, please stop thinking that being survivor is not a big deal. I have a friend from a recent retreat who is traveling all over the United States to try and find a cure, a solution… something to buy some more time. Life isn’t guaranteed. We don’t know our end date. Supporting the American Cancer Society helps to fund research, provide rooms or travel assistance or valet parking.

It’s a subject that gets me fired up. I am passionate about prevention. If one person gets checked because of this awareness, it’s worth it. Mammograms don’t only happen in October. You can get checked anytime.

Stop and watch a sunset. Stop and smell some flowers (they don’t have to be roses). Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you stop doubting, procrastinating or worrying and start living.

When no news is good news …

My Halloween mammogram results were mailed to me. I am so thankful that I didn’t get a call. I knew that if there was something suspicious they would have called in 1-2 days. So delighted to see this in the mail today. 

My results were “normal.” Hallelujah! There were 3 ladies named Mavis getting mammograms on Tuesday. What are the odds of that?! I take it as a sign that I was supported.  I felt the love and support of everyone who said they would hold my hand through it. 

If you are a lady & haven’t had a mammogram yet this year, please do so. It could literally save your life!! (Men get breast cancer also but I’m not sure about insurance coverage for men) When you do, I hope you hear no news and get a letter instead of a call. Thank your technician because they also helped. Tell someone you trust that you’re going so they can pray with you. One year, my best friend came with me and we had lunch and drinks before hand.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. 

Hold my hand…

“Fine.” That’s what most people say when you ask, “How are you doing?” Most people are also liars when it comes to this question, but we still ask just to be nice, or fill an awkward silence or make us think that by asking we are somehow better connected. They talked about it at church last night. The pastor talked about people coming to church to feel a sense of community, but not being willing to get past the “fine.”  I get it. I’m there with you. It’s scary. It’s scary to open up to someone else and/or someone new. What if they look at you funny? What if they avoid you next time? What if they laugh, think you’re crazy or tell their friends to avoid you? But what if they care? What if, by opening up, you make a new friend or a new connection? What if you are the listening ear that someone else needs & you make their day? (By the way, you may never know or realize that this happens… people don’t always come back saying, “thanks for listening or caring.”)

So, here I am… being vulnerable… asking for you to hold my hand. (Virtually, of course.) I have my “routine” mammogram tomorrow (Friday) now changed to Monday 10/23. It comes 6 months after the MRI. This is the schedule for a while, after finding breast cancer on my left side. It still makes me nervous. It still takes my breath away. It still makes me feel like an actual elephant is sitting on my chest. I was thinking it would be later in October, but they had an opening this week, and it worked into the schedule. It’s for the best that I didn’t have 25 days to think about it. I only had 2. (I literally wrote this post at noon and they called me to change it to Oct 23rd, so I DO have 25 days to wait. I guess this gives me extra time for prayers.) This will be my first one at the clinic in town instead of driving back to Fargo.  I can do this. It’s quick, it’s not super painful and it’s necessary. I know God’s in control of this, but I can’t help wonder what is up his sleeve for me. I hope it’s to live a long life, see my kids grow & marry, and have families of their own. We aren’t guaranteed that… but that’s my hope. 

I learned to pray more intentionally after several significant life events. So here is my request: Imagine you are holding my hand on October 23rd. I may squeeze your hand when they press the machine down. The scar tissue is still tender. I may shed a tear because I’m just so thankful to be alive. Pray specifically for peace… for a sense of calm to wash over me. Pray for a good, clear scan. Pray for quick results & good news. Then, go hug someone. If you are a female, schedule your damn mammogram. Just do it. I don’t care what size or shape you are… just make the appointment. And when you do, you can message me to pray for you and I promise I will. 

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you have enough courage to open up and let people in. May you have enough faith to get you through tough times. May you have enough friends to hold your hand so that you don’t even notice the mammogram machine smush.